The Gonzaga women’s basketball team has no time for what-ifs.
Well, perhaps a little.
The Bulldogs are 4-3 after dropping a pair of close games to USC and North Carolina in the Naismith Hall of Fame Challenge. “We could be 6-1,” coach Lisa Fortier offered after a weekend trip to New England.
The journey included a trip to ESPN, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and a date on Friday with the Tar Heels, who scored the last seven points of the game to hand GU a 67-62 loss.
The Bulldogs did a lot of things right in that game, forcing 20 turnovers while committing just 12, stealing the ball 12 times and getting an MVP performance out of post Shelby Cheslek. On the other hand, they were outrebounded for the first time this year (43-32) and shot just 5 for 20 from beyond the arc.
Acknowledging the challenge of a tough nonconference schedule, Fortier said, “We knew going into it that it was going to be tough. And the toughest may be yet to come.”
That probably doesn’t include this week’s two-game home stand. On Thursday, the Bulldogs host a Wyoming team that’s 3-1 but hasn’t beaten a quality opponent. On Sunday afternoon, they get Montana State in a game that will be more remarkable for the sister-vs.-sister meeting between GU’s Laura Stockton and Lindsay of MSU.
However, down the road are tough games at Washington State, Dayton and Colgate, which will offer a further test before West Coast Conference play begins on Dec. 21 at Pepperdine.
Fortier figures the tough lessons are being taken to heart. “I like a lot of the things we’ve been doing in nonconference play, we’ve learned a lot from it and been able to put some things together here and there,” Fortier said.
Some pieces are still missing, notably post Emma Wolfram and guard Shaniqua Nilles, who are recovering from shoulder and patella injuries, respectively. Wolfram is practicing with the team and is “close” to returning, said Fortier, who added that Nilles’ timetable is less clear.
The Cougars look to rebound from their first loss of the season when they travel to Boise State on Thursday.
On Monday night, WSU (5-1) got 22 points from high-scoring freshman Borislava Hristova, but fell at Oklahoma State, 70-60.
Washington State will conclude its three-game road trip with a Sunday afternoon game at San Diego.
Sophomore Geraldine McCorkell is the Big Sky Conference player of the week after helping the Vandals to a 2-1 record in the Cancun Challenge last weekend.
In three games, the Australian sophomore averaged 20.0 points and eight rebounds per game.
She opened against No. 12 Duke with a team-best 18 points in a game the Vandals lost 74-68.
McCorkell again posted a team-high 18 points in Idaho’s 75-55 win over Texas State on Friday. The Vandals closed the tournament with an impressive 97-65 win over a perennial NCAA tournament team in Iowa State.
Idaho is back in action on Wednesday against Northwest Christian.
The Eagles are home on Thursday against Utah Valley following a frustrating weekend in the Lone Star Showcase in Austin, Texas.
EWU (3-4) faced three high-caliber opponents, falling to 15th-ranked Northwestern (74-70), East Carolina (80-62) and Craighton (66-60 in overtime).
Utah Valley is 6-2 record on the young season and is coming off a 94-88 overtime win against San Francisco.
It’s only the first week of December, but the Pirates are already entering Northwest Conference play.
Whitoworth (1-2) host Lewis & Clark on Friday and Linfield on Saturday.
Whitworth guard K.C. McConnell is averaging 11.3 points and 4.2 assists.
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